Think about this: Downsizing can be a good thing.
Consider the fact that former full-sized sedan buyers had traded down to mid-sized sedans and that those mid-sized consumers are now driving compact sedans. It is not because of a want to reduce our lives and gain better fuel economy. It is because the cars have gotten bigger.
The same could be said about subcompacts – they have gotten bigger. In the case of the 2014 Nissan Versa Note, only the interior grew.
The Versa always had a huge accommodating interior. The new addition to the subcompact sedan introduced a couple of years ago, the hatchback is chock full of surprises inside and out.
One look and you might think is from another automaker. Closer examination shows a Nissan through and through. The key is in the details. Before comparing against the competition, look at how Nissan took a more conservative route to its subcompact hatchback and actually made it handsome. Yet, one might accuse Nissan for being a bit anonymous with its Versa Note when the name of the game is distinction.
This is where the details come in. Four doors open wide to near 90-degree angle. Rear doors open to many different kinds of passengers. Lift up a good-sized hatchback to access a nice cargo hold. Plus, other lines that actually make the Versa Note stand out a bit from the pack. Finishing the look are some 16-inch allows with some wide Bridgestone tires.
The wide-opening doors open up to a very spacious cabin. In almost every Nissan made, there is now an emphasis on space both front and back for adults to be accommodated well. You could thank their alliance partner Renault – a company known for spacious cabins and space utilization.
Front seat room is exceptional. The first surprise is the comfort and support of those same front seats. There may not be a lot of bolstering, but the cloth used on the SV with SL Tech Package actually keeps you planted even on the turns. For a subcompact, the Versa Note offers some very good comfort for longer trips.
The big win for the Versa Note is in the rear seat. Subcompacts in the past never offered much for adults to sit in comfort even across town. The Versa Note offers extraordinary leg and headroom for many sizes of adults and children. As mentioned before, cargo room is ample with the rear seats up. Fold the rear seats down and you have a nice cargo hold for bringing home the yield from a major shopping trip.
The instrument panel is a carry over from the Versa sedan, which in a very useful place to take command from. Instrumentation is straightforward, including a LCD panel for fuel and coolant temperature. Controls are easier to use and work better than most Nissans in the lineup.
The center stack yields the grand prize from the SL Tech Package – an infotainment system featuring satellite navigation and the Around View Monitor with rearview camera. The latter is normally reserved for the likes of a Nissan Maxima, Pathfinder or any Infiniti model. To get one in a Versa Note still remains extremely useful, especially when negotiating tight spots or parallel parking. Audio is piped through only four speakers – very good speakers, at that. There is Bluetooth connectivity for the phone and audio files, along with USB connectivity and SiriusXM satellite radio. Versa Note owners would also walk away with NissanConnect enabling the navigation with point-of-interest connection using Google Send-to-Car as the driver for the system.
If you are concerned about how the Versa Note drives, this is yet another surprise. This is definitely no slouch. A 1.6litre four-cylinder engine powers this 2,500-pound, 163-inch Bantamweight. There is 109 horsepower and 107-pound-feet of torque under your feet, facilitated by an Xtronic continuously variable transmission driving the front wheels. The Versa Note loves to run and zip through traffic with ease. You may hear it run, but it clearly an indicator on how alive this Versa Note is when you get it to go.
The big surprise is how it drives. Due to its long 102.4-inch wheelbase, you get a ride that is almost equal to a larger car. It is smooth, solid and absorbs the worse the road will deliver. It does lean and roll through the corners, but it is expected with a softer suspension set. Otherwise, it can maneuver through some tight turns and make lane changes in a snap. The steering is sharp, but its long wheelbase does hamper some tighter turns. Wheel action is very good and exacting on-center. Brakes are fine in both normal and panic stopping with short distances.
One bit if information we would need for choosing the right subcompact is fuel economy. The Versa Note earned a fuel economy average of 31.7MPG. It is low, but you could easily garner the average of 35MPG based on the sticker.
The subcompact Nissan’s prices start at $14,800 for an S model with a manual gearbox. This SV with the SL Tech Package example ran the sticker to $19,545. You could find a happy medium, if you choose your trim level and options carefully.
The Versa Note is a good effort for a subcompact. Its light weight, interior room and zippiness will win you over. It is indeed one of the small cars that truly would put a little spring in your step every time you go somewhere.
However, there is one thing about subcompacts. Since they have grown larger, one may think they could be a good replacement for the compact car. Almost, but not quite. The subcompact lives where traffic can be a hassle and one could get around it quite easily. They make shopping trips and long runs to visit friends and family better even with the lack of size outside. The Versa Note achieves this with a small footprint, but a rather large cabin that accommodates human beings.
That is why the Nissan Versa Note has become a personal favorite in this class. No one would ever feel limited by its size, but by the way it enthusiastically carries on about its business.